Loneliness among minoritised older people:A critical co-research approach exploring experiences, drivers, and ways of coping

Cotterell, Natalie (2022) Loneliness among minoritised older people:A critical co-research approach exploring experiences, drivers, and ways of coping. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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The changes associated with ageing can make older people particularly vulnerable to loneliness. The growing recognition of the social and economic costs of loneliness in later life has led to an increase in research and policies aimed at tackling loneliness among older people. However, certain groups within the older population have been neglected in UK research and policy. Loneliness amongst older people who are ethnically or sexually minoritised is an under-researched topic, with little academic literature covering how these groups experience loneliness and how a minoritised identity can shape those experiences. This research aimed to address the paucity of loneliness research on minoritised older people in the UK. By adopting an emancipatory framework, this research also aimed to empower these communities, strengthening their voices and surfacing accounts of their own lived experiences. A co-research methodology was used to emphasise the value of community knowledge, collaboration, and creativity. Its aim was to work towards reducing inequalities in research and knowledge production, while critically assessing the extent to which a co-research methodology was able to do this. Ten older people were recruited as co-researchers and were involved in the design, data collection, analysis, and dissemination of the data. They conducted and analysed semi-structured interviews with older people (South and East Asian migrants, gay men, and White British people) using thematic analysis. Focus groups with the co-researchers were later conducted and analysed by the thesis author using thematic analysis, providing an opportunity for co-researchers to reflect on their experiences of being involved with the project. A co-produced pamphlet, a shared outcome of the research, was created to provide some guiding principles for future researchers wishing to use a co-research methodology. This was disseminated to age-friendly networks, organisations, and local authorities. This thesis contributed empirically and conceptually to the existing body of research on loneliness in later life and co-research with older people. Through the lens of cumulative disadvantage theory, several factors were identified that operated across the life course to shape experiences of loneliness amongst minoritised older people. In particular, experiences of discrimination were important, underlying many of the factors that shaped experiences of loneliness. The findings also demonstrated that minoritised older people have differing levels of resources to draw upon when coping with loneliness. Novel contributions included placing existing coping strategies on an individual-collective continuum, emphasising the importance of having a strong social identity amongst minoritised older people when coping with loneliness. This knowledge contributes to existing coping theories, offering potential ways of expanding upon them by highlighting the importance of the wider context in which individuals live. This information could be used to inform the development of interventions that promote a sense of belonging and therefore have the potential to tackle loneliness in later life. The findings also made two novel contributions to the co-research literature: first, it offered new insights into how minoritised older people can be involved as co-researchers, providing some practical recommendations for future researchers. Second, it critically reflects on the way in which a co-research methodology was implemented, providing mutual learning – something that few academic studies have previously done. Several directions for future work are suggested including the need for more emancipatory research on the experiences, drivers, and coping strategies amongst other older minoritised groups.

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Thesis (PhD)
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23 May 2023 09:30
Last Modified:
24 Sep 2023 00:07